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Beyond L.A. — Southern Oregon Revealed

Crater Lake

“I can’t wait to see Crater Lake, Nic!” Mac exclaimed. I had mentioned several times to her that Crater Lake was often regarded as the eighth natural wonder of the world, and she was determined to see it for herself.

Noted in the journal of science (February, 1886), “the beauty and majesty of the scene at Crater Lake are indescribable.” This statement holds true today. Imagine a stunningly deep blue lake, securely held by nearly 2,000-foot cliffs, surrounded by incredible mountainous wilderness. What one sees is raw, simple, stunning beauty that cannot be captured by photograph or replicated on palette; it’s a sight worthy of personal witness.

When three gold prospectors, John Wesley Hillman, Henry Klippel, and Isaac Skeeters went charging across the landscape of southern Oregon in 1853, they couldn’t have felt any less astounded than we were upon seeing Crater Lake for the first time. Beyond hyperbole, Crater Lake is larger, bluer, more majestic, than can be described here. The experience of Crater Lake is as complex and layered as the composite volcano from which it was formed.

Crater Lake is named for the small crater at the top of Wizard Island, a large island near the west rim of the caldera. The lake was created when, about 7900 years ago, a vent arc opened up nearly 5,000 feet beneath Mount Mazama’s summit. Then 200 years later the violent eruptions began, many times stronger than Mount St. Helens. Wind blew clouds of dust, smoke and ash as far away as Montana. The massive Mount Mazama, which previously dwarfed all surrounding peaks, collapsed inward on itself. The molten debris and rocky fragments in the caldera, which then took decades to fill with rainwater, eventually came to equilibrium at the current depth. The lake is nearly 2,000 feet deep and reaches 6.25 miles in diameter. Today, you can now see further into the lake than anywhere else in the world, and it serves as a clear-lake barometer to study global impacts on other pristine environments.
Mount Mazama, and now Crater Lake, has always been a spiritual place for the people living nearby. In the Klamath and Tule tribes, it’s tradition to regularly seek spiritual growth through visits to the mountain. It is truly a special place, rich with Klamath lore of the mythical battle between Llao, Chief of the Underworld, and Skell, Chief of the Aboveworld. It’s always been a sacred spot and remains so today, thanks to the efforts of James Sutton, William Steel and, ultimately, Theodore Roosevelt who, on May 22, 1902, endorsed Crater Lake as a national park. Shortly thereafter, the Crater Lake Lodge was built — it was no longer necessary to carry six weeks worth of provisions to reach this stunning landscape.

Originally opened in 1915, the lodge withstood several renovations, the most recent in early 1990. Amid great fanfare, Crater Lake Lodge reopened to the public in 1995. Today, the lodge is well-managed and staffed by Xanterra Parks and Resorts where the genuine staff members come from across the globe to enjoy the stunning surroundings and provide first-class customer service.

Visitors may stay in either in a room at the historic Crater Lake Lodge or in a quiet and quaint cabin or campground at Mazama Village (a short drive from the rim). Either way, an atmosphere unique to the rustic northwest will surround guests. From enjoying coffee on the gigantic patio overlook, to touring the lake by boat (delighting in lunch on mysterious Wizard Island!) to winding around the rim road exploring over twenty lake lookouts, you will find activities to satisfy all curiosity levels.

On the website, Xanterra Parks and Resorts claims “Life is short. The world is large. And your vacation time is too precious to waste on the commonplace.” It’s so true! Driving up the side of the former Mount Mazama, on a clear late summer day and peering out over the arresting lake for the first time, you’ll understand why Crater Lake is anything but commonplace. Eighth natural wonder of the world? Check!

Wolf Creek Inn

We had been traveling down the valley after leaving Crater Lake, truck loaded with our hiking gear and flip-flops. The roller coaster hills leading into the valley were leaving us ready for a break, so having a nice place to kick back was just what we needed.

Looking for the perfect break from the Interstate? Just 123 miles east of Crater Lake, just north of Grant’s Pass, is Wolf Creek. If you’ve spent a good deal of time in Oregon, you might have seen Mt. Hood, the Columbia Gorge, or the north coast. This part of Oregon, although it is less traveled (which is actually a blessing), is a secret ready to be revealed. Nestled between steep green mountains patch-worked with orchards and vineyards, the Wolf Creek Inn is a bit of history preserved. Don’t miss this piece of history on your trip through southern Oregon.

Whether stopping in for a wholesome, home-cooked meal, or resting your eyes for a night or two, the Wolf Creek Inn is a perfect respite from the Interstate doldrums. Originally built by pioneer merchant Henry Smith, the Wolf Creek Inn has been welcoming weary travelers since 1883, including Jack London, Mary Pickford, Clark Gable, Robert Redford and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

The warm light spilling from the two-story building draws you in. Original paintings discovered in the Inn’s basement cover the walls, each offering a bit of Wolf Creek history. Yet even more charming than the authentic 100-year-old spur marks on the old oak floor is the family managing the longest running inn in the Pacific Northwest, Mark and Margaret Quist.

When they heard the inn might close, the Quists moved from Sacramento to Wolf Creek saving the historical icon for future generations. Now a family business, the innkeepers maintain the historical building and the quaint, comfortable rooms beautifully. Not only do they welcome you to the historic inn, you’ll also be treated like a member of the family.

A testament to its quality, the restaurant is a special occasion for locals looking for a delightful meal. Proud that no one will go home hungry, you will find generous portions of delicious local favorites, including a divine apple pie made from 125-year-old apple trees right outside the Wolf Creek Inn restaurant dining room window.

Just be careful, you might fall in love with it too and extend your stay! We knew it was a great place to visit, now we know why Mark and Margaret stayed. If you’re looking for rest and restoration, this enchanting historical inn, coupled with genuine warmth and hospitality will deliver. Have we mentioned the fresh coffee and homemade pastries waiting for you in the morning? Sweet dreams!

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